Pianist shares innovation award with scientist

Pianist shares innovation award with scientist


norman lebrecht

June 09, 2017

The American pianist Lara Downes has been named Innovator of the Year at the University of California, Davis, together with the wheat geneticist Jorge Dubcovsky, distinguished professor of plant sciences.

Jorge Dubcovsky is a leader in the field of plant memory – how crops adapt to weather cycles.

Lara Downes has released a timely album America Again, inspired by Langston Hughes’ 1935 poem, ‘Let America Be America Again’.

‘It has been a difficult time to be an artist in America,’ she says.


  • Anne says:

    No disrespect meant towards the pianist, but this sounds just like Keith Jarrett’s arrangement of the same song.

    • Phil Kampel says:

      The selection of songs from diverse sources, all connected with a common theme of what America is, what it isn’t, what we hope it to be – that’s the essence of the project. The way it’s presented as a live performance even takes it a step beyond, with visual content and interviews.

      No disrespect to the talented and innovative Keith Jarrett, he hasn’t done this that I know of, or according to any commentary I can find about him.

      Lara Downes also happily acknowledges the artists who have provided arrangements for her.

      • Steven Holloway says:


      • Steve P says:

        You must not have typed a search query in your browser. Keith Jarrett certainly did “Somewhere over the Rainbow” – in my opinion, infinitely preferable to Lara Downes version.
        Other than rubato, I don’t hear much similarity: Jarrett is a master and Downes is simply not on his level by any musical stretch. Haven’t listened to her entire album, but if this sample is enough I don’t think I need to hear any more.

  • Samuel L. Bronkowitz says:

    Not sure what is innovative here, but UC Davis curricula do boast such liberal arts gems as Cinema and Digital Media, Feminist Theory and Research, Social and Ethnic Relations, Women and Gender Studies and Landscape Restoration.

  • William Osborne says:

    Whew! That video is schmaltzy even for California. A more inquiring mind might ask how we have nostalgia for things that never existed — a question more pertinent to the intellectual pursuits of a great university.

    On the most banal level, faIse memory is simply implanted by propagandistic distortions of history — i.e. lies.

    But on a more complex level, the parts of the brain that create familiarity and memory are actually separate and can function independently. Familiarity can become an act of creativity unrelated to our actual history or actual memories. We can thus sense familiarity with things we have not experienced, like the illusion of déjà vu, or the delusion that there was once a just America. This invented familiarity can even embellish upon and further idealize the lies we are told. That seems to be what we are seeing in this video. “Somewhere over the rainbow” indeed.

    I think the ability to idealize the past plays a role in our survival, and is a propensity hardwired into our brains. Delusions about a better past trick us into perseverance. The brain tells us we can return to a better time. After all, we have to keep pedaling the bike or we fall over. Keep pumping and things will get as good as the used to be. So we chase rainbows…..

  • David Srebnik says:

    Hello friends…it’s a small world, and our classical music world is even smaller. Let’s stick together and celebrate everyone’s achievements, especially those of us who are doing imaginative things on our (their) own. No one is perfect, but our world is certainly open to different ways.